Being a senior caregiver is such an important and rewarding role. You have the power to make a positive impact on your loved one’s day-to-day experiences and make a difference in their long-term quality of life.
There are a few keys to being an effective senior caregiver. First, remember you’re not alone and you don’t have to do this on your own—it’s okay to ask for help, and there are many resources available to caregivers. Second, it’s important to take care of yourself and your own needs, in addition to your senior loved one, so you can be an effective caregiver.
Let’s explore some key ways you can incorporate self-care into your daily routine.
8 Healthy Self-Care Tips for Senior Caregivers
Taking time to care for your needs is critical so you can be the best version of yourself for your senior loved one—today and in the future. Here’s the good news: It’s not all on you. There are many resources available to senior caregivers.
1. Find a senior caregiver support group.
Support groups are a place where you can confidentially share how you feel, learn from others, share your own ideas and experiences, and get help navigating healthcare challenges from others who have been through similar experiences. Different support group types are available, from in-person discussions to online senior caregiver support groups and groups that focus on specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Finding a senior caregiver support group can seem challenging at first, and you may wonder if you’ll feel comfortable enough to share your own experiences out loud. Remember that once you’ve found a group you feel comfortable with, you don’t have to talk. Simply attending the gatherings and listening to others share their experiences can be highly beneficial.
2. Divide tasks.
Family members, friends, and even your spouse may not realize how they can help or even understand that help is needed. It’s important for your well-being to express your need for help where and when you can.
Some ideas to bring additional support into your life include:
- Asking for help with housekeeping and meals for your family
- Creating a list of tasks you would like assistance with, such as grocery shopping or driving your senior loved one to medical appointments, and sending the list to family and friends so they can sign up for tasks
- Utilizing delivery services such as meal kits, pharmacy orders, and grocery deliveries
3. Make time for things you enjoy.
Senior caregivers often feel selfish when making time for themselves. To navigate these feelings, remember that self-care and making time for things you enjoy is a critical component of recharging for your next day’s caregiving tasks.
Even if you just carve out 15 minutes a day, it’s worth taking time to replenish yourself. Whether you’re reading a book, meditating, painting, or playing a guitar or piano, taking time for activities you enjoy can reduce stress and improve your mood.
4. Take in the outdoors by getting into nature.
Did you know that taking a walk outside has several health benefits? Spending time in the great outdoors is incredibly restorative and can lower stress. Additionally, spending time in natural environments can help you recover from mental fatigue. On top of the benefits of simply being in nature, going for a walk provides its own benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing cholesterol, helping manage weight, and reducing blood pressure.
5. Keep up with your own medical care.
It can be all too easy to cancel your doctor’s appointment because you feel it doesn’t fit into your daily routine. However, attending your own medical appointments and seeking care for your own health problems is key to being there for your loved one in your best capacity.
When possible, ensure your appointment fits your personal needs. For example, schedule your appointments during specific times of the day when the doctor’s office is less crowded, so you don’t have to deal with a long wait. Your local doctor’s office may vary, but generally, the best times for quick appointments are first thing in the morning or right after lunch.
Exercise helps you sleep better, reduces tension, and increases your energy, and these perks are in addition to other physical health benefits such as managing weight, strengthening bones, and reducing the risk of disease. Getting started with an exercise regimen can be difficult for anyone, so start small if you need to—try exercising for 15 minutes a couple of days per week and build up from there. Walking and yoga are great beginner options, and they can be meditative and relaxing.
7. Eat a well-balanced diet.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is key to keeping your body healthy and providing the fuel you need for a busy day. A healthy diet consists of a combination of various foods such as whole grains, beans, fish, meat, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to limit sugars such as cookies, cakes, brownies, chocolate, and soft drinks.
8. Spend time with your friends.
Meeting a friend for lunch or dinner can lower your stress level and provide you with emotional support and someone to talk to. It can bring you a boost of happiness and well-being, empowering you to cope during challenging times.
Is it time to get help for you or your loved one? Take our 4-minute assessment to get more detail on the right direction for you.Take the Assessment
Plan for the Future
As a caregiver, you have an important role in being present daily for your loved one and serving as a key decision-maker in their life. These responsibilities include preparing for the future and making sure a plan is in place in case your senior loved one requires additional support. It’s important to create this plan early so your loved one can assist with decisions as much as possible.
One of the future care options to discuss with your loved one is a senior living community. We understand this can be an emotionally charged and sensitive topic, and you may find it difficult to bring up. To make the discussion productive, healthy, and most of all, loving, we recommend the following tips:
- Bring in advice and support from family members, loved ones, healthcare professionals, and senior care professionals. Having a support team and plenty of information about senior living can guide the conversation and keep it productive.
- Do your research beforehand. Look into senior living communities in your area, find out what they’re like and the amenities they offer, and understand which senior living lifestyles and care levels they support.
- Keep conversations about this topic as positive and comfortable as possible, and respond to your senior loved one’s concerns with compassion and empathy.
- Get your loved one excited about senior living by focusing on the benefits, such as enjoying delicious food options, meeting new friends, participating in engaging activities, and receiving the exact level of support they require.
While you’re planning for the future with your senior loved one, tour different senior living communities together so you can see how they are in person. Consider the following:
- Observe any smells: Is there a clean, pleasant smell?
- View the grounds and buildings: Is the location well taken care of with manicured landscaping? Is it a beautiful place for your loved one to call home, or are there updates that need to be made to the buildings?
- Talk to the residents: Observing the residents will tell you a lot about how happy they are living in the community.
Discover Supportive Resources for Senior Caregivers
As you support your senior loved one, it’s essential that you have the support you need, as well. Explore our comprehensive suite of family caregiver resources to learn more about various topics for senior caregivers and how to support your loved one.